Persian-spiced wholemeal Simnel cake

12-14

Ingredients

  • 200g wholemeal flour
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 16 green cardamom pods, peeled and crushed to a rough powder
  • 2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 300g softened unsalted butter
  • 300g soft dark muscovado sugar
  • 8 medium free-range eggs, beaten
  • 3 balls stem ginger, finely chopped, plus 2 tbsp syrup
  • 3 tbsp rosewater
  • 300g figs, roughly chopped
  • 300g raisins
  • 300g currants
  • 3 tbsp apricot jam
  • Fresh pink rose petals to serve

For the marzipan

  • 400g skinless pistachio kernels (we used Iranian pistachios*)
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 3 medium free-range egg whites
  • *Buy these online at souschef.co.uk. Normal skinless pistachios work fine, too.

You will also need two deep non0stick 23cm cake tins, greased and bottom lined

Simnel cake, a light fruitcake, has a history dating back to mediaeval times. For many families, baking a Simnel cake is a Lent tradition. We’ve made ours with a twist on the classic recipe, using gorgeous green pistachio marzipan and Persian spices.

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, almonds, baking powder, cardamom, ginger and salt together. In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, add the butter and sugar, and cream them together using the K-beater or an electric handheld whisk. Mix on a medium speed for four minutes until light and fluffy.
  2. Slowly add the beaten egg, a little at a time, mixing in between. once you have added half the eggs, start spooning a little of the dry flour ingredients into the cake batter to stop it curdling. When all the eggs have been added, add any remaining flour mixture, stem ginger, syrup, rosewater, figs, raisins and currants.
  3. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared cake tins, put a circle of greaseproof paper with a steam hole in the middle of each (cut a hole in the centre of the circle with scissors) on top of the batter. Bake in the oven for two hours 40 minutes, then check the cake with a skewer inserted in the middle. It should come out cleanly. If there is still sticky cake batter, return for a further 15 minutes. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the pistachio marzipan. Put the pistachios in a food processor and blitz to a fine crumb; this will take three or four minutes. Add the icing sugar and blitz until the marzipan starts to come together. Tip into a large mixing bowl, add the first egg white and knead until the marzipan starts to form a smooth dough. Add more egg white if needed.
  5. When the cake has cooled, on a clean surface dusted with icing sugar, roll half of the marzipan out into a circle, the size of the cake, about 2cm thick. Use the cake tin to stamp out a perfect circle.
  6. Warm the apricot jam in a saucepan over a low heat. Brush over the top of the cake. Place the marzipan over the cake and smooth it out using the flat palm of your hand. Repeat with the other cake and half of marzipan. Shape the marzipan trimmings into 11 even balls. Brush a little apricot jam on one side of each ball and secure them evenly across the cake. Brush off excess icing sugar and lightly brush a little water over the cake to make it perfectly green. Keep the cake in an airtight container until ready to serve. Sieve a dusting of icing sugar over the top and scatter over rose petals.

This cake will keep in a sealed container for up to a month. If you want to make a smaller cake, halve the recipe and use just one tin. Try adding a couple of tablespoons of brandy drizzled over the finished cake. Leave it for one week before putting on marzipan. This will add a subtle boozy flavour.